Toni Preckwinkle is returning to her teaching roots — as Mrs. Preckwinkle — in her third television commercial of the mayoral campaign.
“Before she was alderman or county board president, to hundreds of CPS students she was Mrs. Preckwinkle,” an announcer states over shots of Preckwinkle interacting with kids.
“That’s why no one has worked harder than this former teacher, with grandkids in CPS schools, to end the school-to-prison pipeline, with an investment in kids, and reforms for juvenile justice. As mayor, Toni will freeze school closings, and fight for elected school board. Because to Toni Preckwinkle, education isn’t just policy, it’s personal.”
Preckwinkle spent 10 years teaching social studies and history in the Chicago Public Schools long before she was elected 4th Ward alderman.
In December, the Chicago Teachers Union threw its formidable endorsement behind Preckwinkle one day after the former school teacher embraced the union’s education agenda.
That includes: a “fully-elected” school board; a freeze on new charter schools and public school closings for the four years until that board is seated; and “real progressive revenue” to bolster neighborhood schools.
Preckwinkle broke with the CTU on only one issue: she opposes a so-called “LaSalle Street tax” now prohibited by state and federal law; there is concern it would drive the financial exchanges out of Chicago.
Other mayoral candidates have privately questioned Preckwinkle’s ability to negotiate a new contract with the CTU that beleaguered Chicago taxpayers can afford when she has embraced the union’s education agenda and the CTU has attacked the education plans of other mayoral candidates on her behalf.
In 2012, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s bullying missteps instigated a seven-day teachers’ strike that was Chicago’s first in 25 years. But CTU President Jesse Sharkey made it clear last month that the union would not hesitate to oppose Preckwinkle whenever it sees fit.
“We’re going to support a new mayor to the extent they do the right thing by our schools, and we’re going to act independently of them and fight them to the extent they don’t,” Sharkey said on the day he presented his list of contract demands.
The teachers’ current contract expires June 30, more than a month after Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s successor is sworn into office following the Feb. 26 mayoral election and, if needed, a runoff election April 2.
Sharkey has laid out four provisions of the teachers’ proposals: increased pay and benefits; increased staffing; reduced class sizes and “social demands” guaranteeing sanctuary status for undocumented students in CPS classrooms; and increased availability of affordable housing citywide.
In addition to 5-percent raises for CTU members, the union is seeking librarians and nurses at every school, heightened special education and bilingual student support services, class sizes capped at 24 for early childhood education and a counselor for every 250 students.
In a news release accompanying the new commercial, Preckwinkle was quoted as saying: “As a teacher and as an elected official, I believe the greatest investment we can make is to our young people. The success and stability of our education system is foremost in my mind. We need to have confidence that all of our kids are receiving a quality education, meaningful opportunities and a real foundation for their young adulthood. That means recognizing that schools are more than just buildings – they are anchors within our communities.”
Eager to turn the page after being dragged into the federal corruption scandal that threatens to bring down Ald. Edward Burke (14th), Preckinkle hit the television airwaves last month with a first commercial that got her in more trouble.
Preckwinkle was lambasted — by competitors and community activists alike — for allegedly inflating her role in exposing the deadly police shooting of Laquan McDonald to distract attention from the $10,000 campaign contribution that Burke muscled for her from a Burger King franchise owner.
Her second commercial repeated the claim that she “took on the police department and politicians to expose the truth about Laquan McDonald.”
But it also embraced her role as a “boss” with the guts to take on the old boys’ network, “Because I always have.”